More Than Words
National Reconciliation Week: More Than Words
by Jasmine Gregory | Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Leader, Anglicare WA
National Reconciliation Week is a time of reflection, talking and sharing of histories, cultures, and achievements. It is a time to think about our relationships as Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.(Galatians 5:22-23)
‘Don’t have hate in your heart to anybody. You have to love people, and don’t be mean and you know, I always thought of that as child. My mum always said walk tall, walk proud and look the world in the eye.’ Kathleen Gregory, Footprints in the Sand – a collection of Geraldton Stories
I am Jasmine Gregory, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Leader of Anglicare WA, I am a Bard/Gija woman from the Kimberley’s and like most Aboriginal people in WA have family connections throughout the state.
The two ladies in the photograph are my Mother (Jennifer Kniveton and my Grandmother Kathleen Gregory) both women are wearing the shirts in support of reconciliation many years ago. I cherish this photo as I know that it has much meaning especially when you compare it to the lives they have lived in support of reconciliation with the Non-Aboriginal Community.
My Grandmother was a stay-at-home mother who loved her family and always volunteered for her church (Baptist/Aboriginal Evangelical) and Aboriginal community. I would often go shopping with my Grandmother and wonder as a child why we had to stop and talk to nearly everyone in town before we got any of our business done. Every person who approached my Grandmother was treated with kindness and respect. She would always try to remember who they were and took an interest in their lives and the stories of their children and families. I was often amazed at how she remembered so many people and would often carry on the conversation from her last encounter with them, easily recalling pieces of information I had long forgotten. This upheld her name in the community and as a respected community leader my Grandmother was invited onto Boards and asked to volunteer for many things in Geraldton. As a very active woman, she was more than happy to be involved.
Around this time (35 years ago) Geraldton still had a long way to go in terms of equality and the treatment of Aboriginal people. I would also sometimes see my Grandmother disrespected and treated rudely by people, just as I was. As a child I would get angry and sometimes challenge my Grandmother on not standing up for herself and she would wisely remind me about the fruits of the spirit and that sometimes when we go into new ground there will be heavy opposition.
My Grandmother was a Guide and Brownie leader and had signed me up early on. I would go along with her and watch her teach and guide us to get our badges in cooking and sewing etc. Often, I would see a child be dismissive and rude to my Grandmother and she would always respond with dignity and kindness - continuing to instruct and support the child. As a child this made me fume with anger and often, I felt like really giving that child a good telling off. At the time I didn’t understand her actions. It wasn’t until much later that I truly understood the impact my Grandmother had on the young girls in her care.
Many years later my Grandmother visited Broome with her husband Peter who was originally from that town. She was eating at a Café and a young lady came up to her addressing her by her Guide Leader name, which was an Aboriginal name. The family members that were with my Grandmother were astonished to hear this young white woman calling out to my Grandmother in Aboriginal language. She was a former girl guide that my Grandmother had taught. I was told that this young woman was delighted to see my Grandmother and she shared with everyone the impression my Grandmother had made on her as a young girl and how that had helped her understand and appreciate Aboriginal people and culture. When I heard this story as a teenager, I finally understood the lesson my Grandmother was trying to teach me.
My Grandfather was also a great advocate for reconciliation and worked extensively with Italian people in town. He developed strong and lasting relationships with them, and that in his later years they would often call by to see how he was travelling. He also became something of a mascot for the local town football team. Both great people lived their lives open to loving and accepting others, qualities which they taught their children and grandchildren. Almost all my family members have been heavily involved in Reconciliation activities and are keen to share their culture.
I guess what this taught me is that we are all different, and we all have an opportunity in our lives to share love and share our differences to make a better world. A world more accepting of one another which aligns us with the fruits of spirit and commandments of God.
‘And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’
Artist: Cindy Alsop
The promise of reconciliation begins with the journey of indigenous and non-indigenous people approaching the cross of Christ where we sit and share our stories; honouring one another as those made in the image of God. United in purpose, we walk away as partners – reconciled people – committed to being agents of reconciliation.
Defining the icons
Ochre (brown) Represents mother earth
Semi-circle of U’s People sitting together
Black and white hands Reaching out to each other
Footprints Indigenous and non-indigenous journey to the cross
Blue lines and dots People moving away, as partners, reconciled